IS GENDER MEDIATING THE EFFECTS OF AFTER- SCHOOL PROGRAMS?

Undergraduate

ABSTRACT: Do gender differences exist in determining the effects of after-school programs as a crime prevention device?  Using data from the 1999-2000 year of the Maryland AfterSchool Community Grant Program, this study tests for an interaction between gender and participation in after-school programs in predicting self reported problem behavior.  Separate analyses were conducted for elementary (n=358) and middle school students (n=440).  In general, middle school students participating in the programs reported lower levels of problem behavior than comparison group students.  Coefficients from a linear regression model failed to support the hypothesis that an interaction occurred between program participation and gender.  This was true in both the elementary and middle school samples.  Males and females received the same the benefits from participating in the after-school programs.

Introduction

After-school programs have become a popular remedy for a burgeoning population of children left on their own during the after-school hours.  Twenty-eight million children in the United States live with a single working parent or in a dualincome household where parents are not available in the immediate after-school hours.  Seventy-eight percent of mothers with children between the ages of 6-13 years work full-time and more than 15 million children are unsupervised from 3-8 pm

(www.mott.org).  The National Incident Based Reporting System indicates that shortly after dismissal from school, approximately 3 p.m., there is a peak in violent crime committed by juveniles.  These unsupervised children may be at higher risk for drug use and other problem behaviors, as well as victimization (www.fightcrime.org).  The 1999 National Victimization Survey shows that 10% of violent crimes occurred while the victim was in school compared to 27% of violent crime that occurred on the streets(www.ojp.usdoj.gov).

The need for school aged childcare is a real concern for parents.  Children’s safety and lack of supervision after-school are two of the most important underlying factors for support of after-school programs.  A national poll of registered voters conducted in 2000 found that 93% of respondents were in favor of making safe, daily enrichment programs available to children.  Respondents also viewed after-school programs as being able to provide youth with access to technology and computers, provide opportunities to learn and master new skills and prepare children for a productive future (www.mott.org). 

However, support for after-school programs is driven by less than scientific evidence of the effectiveness of the programs for reducing substance use and problem behaviors such as delinquency.  Gottfredson, Gottfredson and Weisman (2001) outline much of the existing research on after-school programs that exists in three varieties: evaluations of after-school programs that measure effects of participation on problem behaviors; survey research relating self-reports of adolescent problem behavior and involvement in extracurricular activities; and survey research relating measures of problem behavior to measures of the type of care children receive after school.  Only a few experimental or quasi-experimental research designs exist and the majority of researchers have used survey methodology.  The use of such methodology limits the extent to which their results can be used to draw causal inferences about the effects of participation in after-school programs (Gottfredson et al., 2001).  Existing contradictions in the research continue to cloud what is known about after-school programs and their effects on problem behavior and academic performance.  Even less is known about the effects of these programs on specific populations.